My Mom

It has been a month since that day that it happened. I never thought it could happen to me. But it did. I got that phone call saying it happened. It was a terrible car accident. Mom didn’t make it and dad is in the hospital. Shock, disbelief, denial. Not possible.

There has been some time now for it to sink in. But it doesn’t really sink in, just a little bit sometimes. And that’s enough sadness until the next time it sinks in. 

Here is a video made as a memorial to Mom. She has a beautiful smile that reaches her eyes. 

Mom’s Moments

My brother, Tim, said this at Mom’s funeral:

Early Years

The early years of our family involved a lot of change. Mom and dad shared a love for travel, adventure, and helping peopleAfter their marriage in 1969 they spent 2 years in Sierra Leone and several years later, 6 months in Bangladesh. During those early years, there were also stints in Hamilton, Nova Scotia, and Guelph before we ‘settled’ as a family in the Stratford area. I use the term ‘settled’ somewhat loosely as I recall moving 5 times as a kid just within the Stratford areaRegardless of where they went, they were able to quickly absorb themselves into new communities, in large part because of mom’s outgoing and friendly nature. 

As our family continued to increase our roster up to 7 children, including 2 foster kids, life in the Van Dijk household could be described as ranging anywhere between lively and chaotic. 

Despite the number of kids, we were not restricted (actually required to) be involved in various extracurricular activities that included skating lessons, hockey, soccer, baseball, piano lessons, 4H club, church groups, among other things.  Our parents wanted us to stay busy and develop our talents as much as possible. 

Mom tried to instill in us a good work ethic. We were expected to do our share of work around the house and were given our lists of chores – yard work, gardening, house cleaning, shoe polishing, dish washing, barn chores, etcBut she also did a lot herself by going non-stop with housework and errands from morning to evening. In addition to being a stay-at-home mom, she supported dad with his business, drove us around to all of our activities, was involved with various volunteer activities with the church and Christian school, and also made time to connect with and help out various people that she got to know along the way

She was always out running around doing her various errandsOne problem she had was staying on schedule, or you could also say that she operated on her own schedule. In grade 3, Shanti wrote an essay about her mom which included a comment that said “I never know when mom is going to get home.” Part of the reason for this is that she would take the time to have a conversation with everyone that she encountered during her running around. This habit never changed as many people here today will know. This is what she enjoyed the most – being able to connect with people and build relationships, either meeting new people or getting up to date with old acquaintances and friends.  

Sports was a big part of our family activities. Mom was the anomaly in that regard as she had little interest or ability in athletics. When she did try sports like skiing, tennis, and skating, they were quickly ended by injuries. But she went into everything with total exuberance and perhaps a bit of recklessness. She was our biggest supporter when it came to our participation in sports – she would come to our games and cheer us on loudly and enthusiastically even if she wasn’t quite sure what was going on. A year ago at Christmas, we had a family road hockey game and mom was one of the goalies. She was by far the most animated participant, yelling encouragement at everyone from beginning to end of the game. 

Mom thrived on having gettogethers with family and friends, whether it was a one-on-one cup of coffee with a friend or a large group event. She really enjoyed attending large events like weddings and reunions as it allowed her to interact most efficiently with a lot of people. She was a great facilitator and organized many family reunions and get-togethers, updated contact lists and did what she could to ensure that everyone could stay in touch with each other. 

Another characteristic of mom was frugality. She never threw anything away that could possibly have a use one day. If we needed something fairly random such as a neon shoelace, she would conduct a quick search and come up with the required item. Nothing was wasted. Growing up, the use of luxury food items such as jam, honey, cheese, bacon, etc was tightly regulated, tea bags were reused, and leftovers was a weekly meal. I have to admit that although I don’t reuse tea bags, I’m still very careful about the amount of honey I put on my toast. If something in the fridge looked like was about to turn bad, it was just cooked a bit longer. We had a laugh this week when we pulled frozen leftovers out of the freezer that was stored in a ziplock bag for men’s long johns.  

Later Years

In 2000, my parents returned to Ontario from Newfoundland, and this marked a new phase in their lives. All the children had left the house and they were returning ‘home’ in a sense. This also marked a new phase as they began to dedicate more of their time and energy towards overseas ministry and aid work, particularly in Sierra Leone which was emerging from a civil war. They went into this together, dad focusing more on the agricultural side and mom helping out with the Orphanage and coordinating the mass shipment of items to Sierra Leona by shipping container.  The shipping container projects fit perfectly with her personality in that:

1. She was able to help people. 
2. It allowed her to organize and run around collecting items from various people, which gave her lots of opportunity to interact with many different people and get them involved.  
3. Allowed her to prevent many unneeded and obsolete items from going to waste, which fits with her trait of not throwing anything out.  

Mom was very thoughtful towards people in addition to just being social. I’ve heard more than a few stories in the past few days about mom stopping by unexpectedly to give someone a gift or a card even if they weren’t particularly close. She liked to make people feel good. When talking to people, she genuinely wanted to know how they and their family were doing. During conversations with us kids, she would provide detailed updates on so-and-so’s nephew’s sister-in-law’s wedding who she had just heard about even though we had no idea who she was talking about. 

Despite her seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm, she did at times get overwhelmed and frustrated by the constant hustle and challenges. She was human after all. During times like this, she leaned more heavily on her faith in God.  Faith was an integral part of her life and she continued to be inspired and grow in her faith – this is evident by the amount of literature, posters, and notes of inspirational messages and reminders that can be found throughout the house. 


In short, one could summarize the most important things in her life as faith, family, and friends. She forgave, she loved, and she gave of herself.  She was not always graceful but she was always full of grace. 

She was not someone who was easily forgotten in lifeOur hope is that she will continue to be remembered and that her positive impact on the people around her will be celebrated. 

My Perfect Marriage

Our perfect wedding day!

This blog is about my perfect marriage. My perfect husband and I have been married for 6 months. We love each other so much and we never fight. We support each completely and we are going to live happily ever after.

Ok, so now I will tell the truth. I love my husband and I know he loves me. We do not always get along perfectly and we do not have a perfect marriage. Instead this post will be about letting go of my ideal of the “perfect” marriage.

If you have seen a couple recent posts I have written, you may have noticed my attempt at being disciplined in my life. Although this is not easy, it seems to be something I strive for in most parts of my life. I like to attempt to have control. This includes my relationship with my husband. I think I believe that things will only be good if we do everything we are supposed to do for a perfect marriage. What is the this list of things we are supposed to do? 1. Communicate about all important and unimportant things in our lives 2. Read the Bible and pray everyday and go to church every Sunday 3. Have dinner together everyday at the table 4. Never get upset with each other 5. Have a date night every week 6. Have a hobby that we can do together 7. Always take turns caring for the the dog 8. If we have children, we must never disagree about how to raise them 9. We must never disagree in front of the children and 10. Never forget our anniversary or any other special dates in our relationship. And so if we follow this list of 10 things then we will always have the perfect marriage.

I have now learned that is not the case. We cannot perfectly follow a list of 10 rules and we will not now and not ever have the perfect marriage. We will serve each other and we will be selfish. We will communicate and we will not talk to each other. We will agree and we will disagree. We will have ideals and we will fail to meet our ideals. Ultimately, we love each other and our love will grow in the many years we have together. Our love is not perfect and it will not ever be perfect.

But there is hope. We will struggle through our failures in our marriage. I know I need to let go of my ideals and my expectations of a perfect marriage. (I was reassured in this by this blog post.) We need to do what works for us. I need to let go of expecting my husband of being and doing something he is not. I need to let of expecting myself of being and doing something I am not. This is so hard when everyone else seems to be able to keep up and do everything and seemingly have perfect marriages and relationships. I also need to let go of comparing myself to everyone else!

Love looks different now then it did in the beginning of our relationship. I learned about how love looks in this blog post. In the beginning, we spent all our spare time together. We connected and we learned about each other. We watched movies and went out for dinner. Now we spend time discussing finances and cleaning up dog poo together. How our relationship has grown! Love looks different and that’s okay.

And finally, we must respect and reverence each other. This is not always easy. This is almost never easy. There are verses in the Bible that refer to the need for the wife to respect and reverence her husband (see this post). Although society might not agree, I need to respect my husband completely.  Even though I have to fight all the urges that I have to demand respect for myself only, I need to respect my husband always. Even as I write this, I am not exactly sure what that looks like. How can I respect my husband more? This is what I will spend some time working on.

I just finished reading comedian, writer, and actor Mindy Kaling’s book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? In it, she talked about her parents and their relationship. There was something about the way she described her parents as “pals”.  “My parents get along because they are pals. They’re not big on analyzing their relationship. What do I mean by pals? It means they mostly want to talk about the same stuff all the time. In my parents’ case, it’s essentially rose bushes, mulch, and placement of shrubs. They love gardening.” I like this. I like it because I like to over-analyze my whole life, which includes my marriage. She goes on to discuss the struggles between spouses and the work of marriage, “I don’t want to hear about the endless struggles to keep sex exciting, or the work it takes to plan a date night….I want to see you guys high-five each other like teammates on a recreational softball team you both do for fun….Maybe the point is that any marriage is work, but you may as well pick work that you like.” I like this too. Maybe it is simplistic and there is probably more to it but it’s true.

Exciting?! Events

This week, I have gone back to work, vacation is over! I feel both sad and happy about this development in my life. My husband, Niall, has been working at the school for the last month and I will be joining him. I will be a substitute teacher for the high school Physical Education teacher who will be away for 4 months. I will be teaching Grade 9 and 10 Physical Education. I am excited to be back in school to continue teaching and developing classes and new ideas for students. I am also a little bit sad to be back to work because I had just started to settle into my stay-at-home life, which I really enjoyed.

Our new little puppy, Hamish, arrived last Saturday. He is a tiny, 8 week old French bulldog. We had decided to get a puppy last year and we had been looking forward to it ever since. We have had an amazing time getting to know little Hamish in the past week. He is very friendly and playful and easy going. He loves to chew on everything, as many puppies do. He is also a lot of work because he is not trained at all and he pees and poos everywhere. There was a lot of cleaning up to do in the first week with Hamish.


Since I had to go back to work full time, we had to find a place for him to go during the day because he can only be alone for about 2 hours at a time. We found a good doggie daycare/bootcamp where Hamish will go during the week so he will not be alone in his crate and where he will get some housetraining. He will come home on the weekends where we will get to enjoy him. It was a hard decision to send Hamish away during the week because we do miss him a lot. I was surprised at how attached I became to him in the first week we had him. But we also realize that this is the best option for right now for him. Then we will be able to enjoy him even more in the future because he will be happier and better trained.

I have spent some time (as I always do) reflecting on both of these changes. Going back to work has come at a time where I feel I was just settling in to Budapest, our apartment, and my life at home. I was starting to feel very comfortable being at home and being able to work at my own pace and on my own schedule. Having a taste of that time at home has given me a positive view of it. I look forward to the time in the future when I will hopefully spend more time at home.

Going back to work is somewhat of a relief also. I feel less guilty about life because I am earning an income again. I felt a little bit bad being at home and not doing anything “productive”. I felt that what I was doing was productive but I had to continually justify it to myself in my own mind. I felt that I should be earning an income but I did not really want to have to go outside of the house and do that. I am grateful for this opportunity to work in a position that I am experienced in and therefore fairly easy for me.

The puppy is amazing. I have become one of those people who loves my dog! I grew up in a family where pets and animals had a purpose. They weren’t around for our enjoyment but rather for a reason so I was surprised to find that little Hamish grew on to me quite quickly. I became attached to him (despite having to clean up his pee and poo constantly)! As a child, my brothers and sisters and I had a dog but he was rarely allowed in the house and he spent his time outside. He was a big, energetic dog and we couldn’t really get him to behave very well so we weren’t able to do much with him. We loved him and played with him a lot but there was not the same kind of attachment that I already have with Hamish.

There continues to be exciting changes in our lives. I always look forward to the adventures that are ahead. Who knows what could come up?


Getting a Puppy in Hungary…bringing Hamish home!

Last year, we decided we would get a puppy. My husband’s family had always had dogs at home. My family had a dog when I was little. So we decided that after we were married and settled in our new home, we would get a puppy. We did some research and found the best breed to get was going to be a French bulldog. French bulldogs are fairly small dogs, which would work for us so that we could travel with him. They also tend to be dogs that don’t need a lot of exercise (besides at least one or two daily walks) and they are quiet so they are good apartment dogs. We have also found out that they can be quite stubborn.

We went to pick up our little 7 week old brown French bulldog on Saturday, September 6, 2014 with our friend from school. We had to drive about an hour out of Budapest to meet the people we were getting him from. He was the cutest, littlest puppy and he was so sad to leave his family but we were so happy to have him! Hamish was home!


It didn’t take long to realize how much work having a puppy is. There can be numerous comparisons made to having an infant. The first week he was home with us, I also realized that I had no idea what to do with a puppy. If he was going to be left to me (because Niall is at school) to take care of he might be the worst behaved puppy ever. Hamish tended to pee or poo wherever he needed to in the house because we could not take him outside because he did not have all of his shots yet. There was a lot of cleaning up to do. But he certainly loved to sit and cuddle with us and sleep a lot.

Shortly after we got him, I also got a job at school where I would be working full time. We had to find a place for Hamish to be taken care of during the day. We could not leave him alone for more than a couple hours. We managed to find a dog boarder who would pick him on Monday morning and drop him back off on Friday afternoon. We were weekend dog owners! I had no idea I would be that person who brought her dog everywhere and sent him to puppy camp all week! But it was the only solution and so we had to say good-bye to Hamish during the week. We have been doing this for several weeks now and Hamish returns on the weekends happy, hungry, and ready for cuddles. We found out that he has any number of dog friends to play with and cuddle with at night so he gets a bit lonely with us at home.

Training Hamish was initially a big concern mostly because I had no idea how to train a puppy. After being at puppy camp, he has seen some good examples from the big dogs so that helps with the potty training. He is usually able to do his business outside now that we are also taking him out to the park at least 2-3 times per day. He loves running around the park and hanging out with other dogs, who are usually bigger than him and scared of him! When we were finally able to take him outside we got a harness and a leash. We soon learned the stubborn side of Hamish and he refuses to walk on the leash. He will sit down on the sidewalk and not move until we take the leash off. This hasn’t been a huge concern because he does an excellent job of walking behind or beside when we are outside. If he ever strays away then we can easily get him back on track by calling him or giving him a treat.


A couple weeks ago, Hamish got sick and had some intestinal problems. We had to take him to the vet 3 times in 6 days to get him checked and for medicine. After that he seemed to be doing better so off he went back to puppy camp. When he came back, he was a little bit sick again so he got more medicine. For a couple days he was doing well so we took him back to the vet to get his 4th vaccination shot. The next day he was very, very sick. So sick that we had to take him to the vet immediately. He had to have an IV and several shots and more medicine. Luckily he started to feel better very quickly after that and seems to have continued to improve.

Because Hamish was sick and the weather in Budapest got cooler and rainy, Hamish was quite cold when I took him out for a walk one day. I thought he could use some more insulation so I got him a little coat to wear when we went out for walks. The first time he wore the coat was after I gave him a bath and he was shivering so I put the coat on him to keep him warm. I think he might have thought it was a straight jacket because he did not move for at least an hour or two after I bundled him in a blanket and put him in his bed. The next time I put the coat on him was when we were going for a walk. He stood frozen in the kitchen for several minutes with one paw up because I could coax him to the door with a treat. After taking him downstairs and putting him on the sidewalk, he still refused to move so eventually I had to take the coat off and then he willingly walked to the park! Again his stubbornness is showing as well as his dislike for thinks that restrain him apparently!

We are looking forward to many more adventures with the newest member of our family here in Budapest!